Sammanfattning av publikation

Björnberg, 2011🔗

Social Relationships and Trust in Asylum Seeking Families in Sweden 

Year: 2011

Type of text: Vetenskaplig artikel

Published by:  Sociological Research Online, 16 (1) 5 

Language: English

Author: Ulla Björnberg

Pages: 9

Available at:

Short description of text 

The text is built on a study of asylum-seeking families, where long interviews have been carried out with children and parents separately and repeatedly. The focus is on social relationships and support networks in a psychological way, but here I have included the parts that relate more directly to how the individuals feel about the asylum process as such, material conditions and the contacts with the Migration Agency.

Most important results

“The transition period was associated with many different kinds of adversity for the asylum seekers. It implied loss of resources, social capital and trust in the country of origin. Both parents and children said that arrival in Sweden brought a feeling of security and relief. However, experiences of traumatic experiences remain and have an impact on psychological and physical well-being, bringing symptoms such as depression, anxiety, sleeplessness and stomach and headaches. The sense of insecurity linked to previous events is reduced after a while but through the process of waiting for a permit of residence the feeling of security is eventually replaced by feelings of uncertainty and unpredictability about the future. In the literature this is described as dealing with ’the trauma of return’ (Brekke 2004). This refers to the impending threat of being forced to return, which blocks the motivation to manage new circumstances in everyday life in the host country.” (paragraph 4.1)

“Material deprivation was experienced by almost all families. In our sample the children have lived economically deprived circumstances for a long time, since they have been waiting for a long time. This means that the possibility of expanding their social activities is restricted, and they are unable to afford to spend free time with friends. They express a sense of otherness in many aspects of daily life. Overcrowded living and experiences of having moved house several times were common experiences that added to difficulties in making friends and socialize.” (paragraph 4.2)

“Some children’s experiences during the transition phase have included deprivation and exposure to people who have exploited their vulnerable situation on the road from their home country to Sweden. These experiences combine to create distrust in other people. Their own experiences with the Swedish Migration Board as well as those of their parents have transferred to the children a sense of being mistrusted about their reasons for staying in the host country.” (paragraph 4.3)

“The Migration Board and the contacts with solicitors and service staff were of great significance to the families, who were very dependent on them for accommodation or financial support. What came out in the stories about relationships with officers in the Migration Board was how families could sense non control and uncertainty in exchanges with them. This was linked to long waiting periods and a lack of transparency regarding rules and rights. Some parents mentioned that their children had been upset by questions that were posed to them about what the parents had said. They felt that they had to confirm the stories told by their parents. On the other hand the Migration board was perceived as helpful. Some interviewed parents mentioned that they had support, but this depended on the officer or solicitor that they had as contact person. Churches were also helpful in providing light food or clothing. There they felt that people had time for them and showed a helpful attitude. None of the interviewed turned to immigrant associations for socialising. The reason mentioned was that they felt insecure about the people in these associations. “ (paragraph 4.31)

Theoretical perspective/framework

 resilience, social capital, trust and social recognition


“qualitative interviews were carried out with seventeen families.[1] Interviews with parents and children were conducted separately, each lasting two hours and carried out on two separate occasions. Using this approach, we amassed a total of approximately four hours of interview per individual and eight hours per family. For each family we had two interviewers; one for the parent and another for the child. The sample of families was based on asylum tenure, with a focus on asylum seekers who have waited several months or even years for decisions on a permit to stay. Thirteen mothers and four fathers – five single mothers, but no single fathers – eleven daughters, and six sons were interviewed. The children were aged between 9-18 years. Eight are in their upper teens (14-18), five in their lower teens (12-13) and three are 9 years old. The interviewed families are from different countries, Afghanistan, countries in the Middle East, Iraq, Iran and Uzbekistan. Most families have a middle class background in terms of education or have had their own business. Two of the children (9 and 14 years) and one mother had minimal schooling before their arrival in Sweden.” (paragraph 2.1)

Summarised by: Josefin Åström